Thursday, 24 February 2011

Ugly? Or just different?

This is a post about the film "Beastly", starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer. Due for release this summer, it is a loose re-imagining of the tale of Beauty and Beast. I stumbled across this film through the blog Haute Macabre, who were understandably a little bit miffed about it.

Watch the trailer. It got me thinking about what the mainstream (and to an extent the alternative) media perceives and beautiful and ugly, and onto one of my pet subjects - what message is being sent out to children and the impressionable about self image?

As I said, the film appears from the trailer to be a loose re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast story. In this version, the 'beast' is an arrogant frat boy who is turned into the beast by a witch. The form that that 'beast' takes? One more commonly seen in the alt. world - tattooed, shaven headed and scarred. Oh, and he rides a motorbike and wears leathers.

I am well aware that there are many many people in the world who think that the merest hint of ink on a body (particularly that of a woman) is cause to deride that person with any number of insults about their personal choices and being ugly (insults that wouldn't wash with many other areas of society by the way), but it is another thing entirely to portray the very definition of ugliness in this way.

Beauty and the Beast is a difficult story to portray, even more so in these supposed times of tolerance and acceptance - however you portray the Beast, you are bound to upset someone. How do you make a sensitive film with an arty feel whilst making the Beast something so outlandish that it couldn't possibly upset someone would be hard. Maybe it is a film best left to the likes of Disney. Jim Steinman managed to get the jist across quite nicely and without upsetting people in the video for Meatloaf's "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)". I think in that case we have the awe inspiring might of the Meat to thank.

But "Beastly" seems to take it somewhere else. The trailer feels a little bit like the message is "being pretty isn't everything, but you really don't want to look like this". This being different, alternative, non conformist. It feels a little bit like the last vestige of Hollywood prejudice - tattoos are still somewhat taboo outside of certain circles, and cannot ever be allowed to be mainstream. 

This is not to say that I think the alt. media is much better at not portraying stereotypes, but that is the subject of a whole other post for me I think!

I will watch this film when it is released, because I would like to be proven wrong. I would like to think that in the end he learns to love his new look and mourns if he has to change back, and I have therefore completely misjudged it.


  1. Really interesting post. I hate the way in those 'ugly girl gets gorgeous' type films the supposedly ugly girl always has glasses and they're the first thing to go as part of her transformation!


  2. Me too!! As a long term specs wearer I have always taken issue with the idea that glasses = ugly/uncool/geeky. I love wearing my glasses, they just aren't very practical!

  3. I'm hoping it ends like the first Shrek film, where they kiss and there's the whole thing with the sparkly light, but she's still an ogre at the end, and says "I don't understand, I'm supposed to be beautiful" and Shrek says, "But you are"...

  4. I hope so too Laura, that would be a nice ending to it all :)


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